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Nov. 11, 2019 – On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear one of the most important and consequential cases in recent years: the challenge to the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA is a reflection of who we are as a country: our most cherished values, our allure and promise to those fleeing hardship, and our economic vitality. But it is also about our security. Indeed, terminating the program would come with a steep security cost, redounding on our safety at home and reverberating throughout our hemisphere.

This is precisely the argument that more than 50 national security experts – including former Secretaries of Defense and State, CIA Directors, and National Security Advisers – submitted to the Supreme Court last month in an amicus brief.

Background

For the past seven years, DACA has offered temporary protection from deportation and the ability to work legally to roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own. On September 5th, 2017, the Trump administration took action to terminate the DACA program, jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of these hardworking young people who have called America home for most of their lives.

Following the announcement, multiple lawsuits challenged the administration’s actions. As a result, three nationwide injunctions issued by U.S. district courts allowed DREAMers who previously had DACA to renew their deferred action. On June 28th, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to review several lower-court decisions against the termination of the program. Arguments are scheduled to be heard on November 12th, 2019.

DACA is constitutional, and no federal court has found otherwise, while numerous decisions have struck down efforts to terminate the program. The cases in front of the Supreme Court are not a question of whether DACA is legal and constitutional; they are about the illegal termination of the DACA program.

The National Security Case for DACA

Embracing our strengths–promise, diversity, education, and economic vitality–makes us stronger on the world stage, especially as America is increasingly called upon to counter creeping authoritarianism around the world. Indeed, DACA reflects America at its best–the image of America that has long made us the envy of the world.

  • DACA eligible recipients are undocumented immigrants who arrived as children and are long-term residents of the United States with deep ties to their communities. They deserve an opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations–in turn contributing to the American economy–in the country they know as home.
  • Terminating DACA would rip apart families and communities. It is estimated that 25 percent of DACA recipients–some 200,000 DREAMers–have a child who is a U.S. citizen, 59 percent have a U.S. citizen sibling, and 51 percent have another U.S. citizen family member.
  • At its core, ending DACA would only further chip away at the promise of America as an inclusive democracy and as a land of opportunity. We cannot allow its termination to join family separation and the “Muslim ban”–among other affronts to our identity and values–as what could prove to be enduring blemishes on the image of America that has made us strong at home and the envy of the world.

The prospect of deporting DACA-eligible individuals and their families would incur steep costs across the board. Fear of deportation makes immigrants feel less integrated in our communities, causing our neighbors and coworkers–and their communities–economic stress.

  • Over 90 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed. The prospect of DACA recipients losing work authorization would reverberate on the business community by creating uncertainty for all businesses employing DACA recipients, who work in every sector of the American economy.
  • DACA recipients contribute economically not only to their communities, but their families often rely on DACA recipients’ earnings, the loss of which could have much farther-reaching implications.
  • DACA recipients contribute significant federal, state, and local tax revenues. Households with DREAMers contribute more than $1.4 billion in federal taxes alone, and their contributions help strengthen the long-term finances of Medicare and Social Security.
  • DACA recipients contribute more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

DACA strengthens military recruitment and readiness, which the threat of deportation seriously undermines. Deporting DACA-eligible individuals, including veterans and soldiers, simply doesn’t make sense when our Armed Forces are already stretched thin.

  • The Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MANVI) program was started under President George W. Bush to recruit immigrants with much-needed foreign language or other special skills. In 2014, President Obama opened the program to DACA recipients.
  • The hundreds of DACA-eligible individuals who are currently serving in the military or have signed contracts to serve have unique skills, including language abilities and cultural familiarity, critical to our military’s readiness and effectiveness.
  • Beyond the military, DACA recipients also are employed as emergency first responders, safeguarding our communities.

Deporting DACA-eligible individuals to countries would add to instability in our hemisphere. Several of these countries, namely those in the Northern Triangle, are the source of the vast majority of asylum-seekers at our southern border and would be unable to absorb so many new immigrants.

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  • A mass influx of young people to already unstable and countries with which most of them are wholly unfamiliar would only add to strife in our own hemisphere and add to migratory pressure from these countries.
  • Ending DACA also would stem the flow of remittances from the United States, which are critical to many Central American economies. In 2018, remittances comprised 12 percent of Guatemala’s GDP,  22 percent of El Salvador’s, and 20 percent of Honduras’.
  • Removing these sources of revenue would further destabilize countries that are already struggling to produce enough tax revenue to cover security, governance, and anti-poverty programs.

Finally, ending DACA would direct precious resources away from real threats that homeland security and law enforcement should be prioritizing, forcing them to deport law-abiding, productive, and talented young people, incurring a financial tab of at least $7.5 billion in the process.

The experience with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy–which has separated families at the border and criminalized asylum-seekers, among others–provides a cautionary case in point. It shows that we cannot shift resources away from real threats, which DACA’s termination would force us to do, without incurring costs to our safety and security.

  • As former U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said, “If you’re working on a misdemeanor illegal entry case, as a matter of fact, you are not working on something more serious. It is a net drain on the scarce resources of U.S. attorneys. Full stop.”
  • Prosecutors in San Diego had to decline drug smuggling cases in order to keep up with the onslaught of border crossing cases.
  • The courts in McAllen, Texas have been so strapped for time and manpower that they began holding mass hearings with over 80 immigrants at once–most of whom left merely with a $10 fine to show for it.
  • Lawyers in the Southern District of Texas found themselves completely swamped. “It means we don’t have the time that we need to handle our felony cases,’ said Marjorie Meyers, a federal public defender.
  • The misallocation and diversion of limited prosecutorial resources is not restricted to the prosecutors and judges in the courtrooms; ICE agents who pursue the removal of DACA recipients would not be spending that time and effort on removing traffickers and violent criminals.

National Security Action: We are Americans—former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders—who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org